Tuesday, August 08, 2006

How To Make Millions From Happy Campers

Ari Ackerman Story


Happy memories from his childhood days at summer camp inspired Ari Ackerman to come up with the idea for Bunk1.com. He originally wrote the business plan for the company for his MBA training, but it seemed like too good an idea to pass up.

His initial concept was to provide a Web service that parents could use to watch their children's camp activities online, with camp administrators posting photos for the parents to peruse. Ackerman then added an e-mail service (called BunkNotes) and an online newsletter service, as well as a search engine to help parents find a camp for their kids.

At first, says Ackerman, 33, the camp directors were difficult to persuade. "To sell them on this concept wasn't easy," he says. But with his camp background, he knew the market well. He knew parents would be willing to pay for this convenient connection to their kids—and he was right. The first camps he sold his service to got good response from parents immediately—and the number of concerned phone calls from parents (the "What's my child doing?" sort) to the camps decreased, as moms and dads had tangible evidence that their babies were alive and well.

Word-of-mouth started to build demand for the concept, and, to date, the Bunk1.com service is offered to close to 2,000 camps nationwide. Camp directors either purchase the service and include it in the price of the camp or simply offer parents the option to purchase Ackerman's Bunk1.com service a la carte.

Revenues are projected to reach more than $3 million, and Ackerman has already expanded into other Web services, like CampAlumni.com (a service to reconnect old summer camp friends).

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